Suede and British Sea Pow­er play­ing in the grounds of Hamp­stead­’s Ken­wood House is an irre­sistible oppor­tu­ni­ty, espe­cial­ly as com­plaints from near­by res­i­dents mean con­certs here are few and far between. As Suede’s set draws to a close, Brett Ander­son remarks how pleased he is to be back in Hamp­stead, an area he loves. As head­lin­ers, Suede are indeed a wel­come addi­tion to the Ken­wood House Live by the Lake series.

After a promis­ing set by rel­a­tive new­com­ers Tele­man, British Sea Pow­er take to the stage. I saw them at Hop Farm in 2009 where they per­formed to a small crowd, up against Paul Weller (and Roger Dal­trey) on the main stage and it was all a bit under­whelm­ing. Since then, they have come on leaps and bounds, with a stronger sound and a con­fi­dence that mir­rors their strong eco mes­sage and British retro vibe.

Nes­tled among foliage and smoke, theirs was a short and con­cise set (too short for me) – open­ing with the uplift­ing Machiner­ies of Joy, fol­lowed by anthemic Wav­ing Flags, which includes their flag-wav­ing bear. The high qual­i­ty, giant screens on either side of the stage are used to great effect dur­ing an instru­men­tal num­ber, show­ing dra­mat­ic footage of birds, glac­i­ers, and ice­bergs crash­ing into the sea. Full marks to the sound mix too which offers near-per­fect clarity.

Yan, BSP
Jan Scott Wilkin­son, British Sea Power

The bear, and a larg­er com­pan­ion, made a return for the lat­ter part of the set, which ends with Car­rion. Jan Scott Wilkin­son’s vocals have a more assured and less whis­pery deliv­ery, and this works in the band’s favour.

There’s a pal­pa­ble feel of excite­ment in the air as Suede take to the stage.

SuedeThe band cre­ate a moody slow start to the set with The Big Time before unleash­ing their full pow­er. Still retain­ing his flop­py hair and lean, angu­lar frame, Brett Ander­son is undoubt­ed­ly genet­i­cal­ly blessed. His days of edgy youth are over and he seems at ease with the man he’s become, con­fi­dent but with­out arro­gance. More impor­tant­ly, the voice is still there, with its breaks, its Bowie-esque, south­ern-dialect charm. And with a set that sees him sing con­tin­u­ous­ly for around one and a half hours, it didn’t let him down.

The set was pep­pered with clas­sics, Trash, Ani­mal Nitrate, The Drown­ers. Num­bers from the band’s lat­est release Blood­sports are slot­ted in here and there, although It Starts and Ends with You with its irre­sistible hooks, sounds like a num­ber from an ear­li­er peri­od. So young… The crowd sings, swept along on a tide of mem­o­ries, but sud­den­ly we are brought back to earth by Brett’s announce­ment that the band must drop one song as time is run­ning out… but luck­i­ly there’s time for a cou­ple more. They play Beau­ti­ful Ones for an audi­ence sin­ga­long finale.

Kenwood House livebythelake

Ken­wood House is more well-known for its clas­si­cal music con­certs, in which bring­ing a pic­nic is part of the expe­ri­ence. How­ev­er food, drink and alco­hol are banned for rock con­certs, with facil­i­ties pro­vid­ed on site. Food pro­vi­sion was ade­quate: sev­er­al food con­ces­sion stands: burg­ers, sausages, fish & chips and sand­wich­es, sushi. Also a Ken­tish cider stand: £4.50 a pint of elder­flower or reg­u­lar cider.

There was only one bar on site which was woe­ful­ly inad­e­quate, serv­ing small bot­tles of beer at £4 each. For a short evening con­cert it seems incon­sid­er­ate to expect peo­ple to spend up to 20 min­utes queu­ing for drink.

Tip: bring a pic­nic and sit out­side the fes­ti­val are­na on the grassy slopes until the music starts. If you don’t have a tick­et, music can def­i­nite­ly be heard from out­side, but you won’t be able to see the main stage.

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